Our world is in a frenzy of fear. Stories splash across our screens of both global and local terrorist attacks. We witness our world at war. Tragedies, in the forms of accidents and health risks, plague us. We witness a continual stream of messages that scream that we are unsafe in this world.
While we cannot change the uncertainty of the future, our response to this reality will either help or hurt humanity.
When outer chaos breeds internal turmoil, we humans can make destructive decisions with our mismanaged fears. In the words of Kristen Neff, “Oftentimes our reactions to these feelings are the most harmful, not the feelings themselves”. Avoiding the escalation of hatred and violence in the world will necessitate the healthy management of our fears. I believe this begins with our personal pursuit of peace.
A climactic scene from the movie Kung Fu Panda 2 reflects the power of finding peace in the midst of scary situations. When Po the Panda finally finds his “inner peace“, he is empowered to endure the impossible. Similarly, when we experience an internal sense of peace, we too can stand in strength against the barrage of trials that torpedo toward us.
The pursuit of “inner peace” is particularly important for those of us recovering from addiction. We have a history of searching for peace in all the wrong places. We are skilled at calming ourselves by counterfeit means. We know how to numb. But in recovery, we learn to reach for what is real. We learn that peace that is packaged like pornography and decorated like drugs is illegitimate and illusory. Abandoning false paths to peace, we pursue new ones.
May all who crave authentic peace in the midst life’s terrors and temptations consider the following avenues:
- Practicing Gratitude – In his helpful book “This is Your Brain On Joy“, Dr Earl Henslin shares that “research has shown that it is impossible to be grateful and loving while also being fearful and angry”. When every day is Thanksgiving, we experience increased freedom from fear.
- Cultivating Self-Compassion – In managing my own anxiety and working with clients, I have found the Self-Compassion Break to be a potent passageway to peace. When stress soars, investing in a few moments of self-compassion increases oxytocin, decreases cortisol, and helps us feel both soothed and safe.
- Creating Connection – It is a true treasure when we find others who will respond to our distress in caring ways. Flores writes “regardless of our age or emotional development, we will always require some degree of emotional regulation from others. The denial of the need for others is what leads individuals to seek gratification (e.g., drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, etc.) outside the realm of interpersonal relationships”. When we are frozen in our fears, we can be warmed by the comfort of others.
- Strengthening the Soul – The phrase “perfect love drives out fear” points to the power of spiritual connection. When we allow our hearts to be held, our fears can be calmed by Divine connection. Prayer, visualization, music, time in nature, and meditation (such as Connecting to Your Source of Compassion) aimed at strengthening attachment to a Higher Power in stress and distress can deepen a peaceful sense of security despite outward circumstances. For many, spirituality also provides hope, strength, courage, and clarity.
As we individually pursue inner peace, our choices will change. Regardless of our political, cultural, and religious backgrounds, our responses to the worries of this world will prove more beneficial to everyone when grounded in calmness, courage, and connection.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us.
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-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!